Weekend Reading Recommendations

Today, across the United States, people are looking forward to a three day weekend. Some view it as the beginning of summer. Others look forward to all the sales and special events that will be taking place. Many others, however, remember the real reason for the extra day off. They don’t celebrate. They reflect on what the day, Memorial Day, stands for. They remember those brave men and women who stood and took a step forward when the country called for volunteers. They did not run and hide when their numbers came up in the draft. In short, they answered the call to serve in our armed forces and they made the ultimate sacrifice.

Across the nation, and in cemeteries around the world, the traditions of Decoration Day will be followed. The graves of those who lost their lives wearing the uniform of the nation will be decorated with flags and flowers. Special ceremonies will be held. Friends, families and strangers will honor the fallen. I will be joining those people, remembering family members who gave their lives for the country they loved.

Below are three books I tend to return to this time of year.

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors

James D. Hornfischer

“This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.”

With these words, Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland addressed the crew of the destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts on the morning of October 25, 1944, off the Philippine Island of Samar. On the horizon loomed the mightiest ships of the Japanese navy, a massive fleet that represented the last hope of a staggering empire. All that stood between it and Douglas MacArthur’ s vulnerable invasion force were the Roberts and the other small ships of a tiny American flotilla poised to charge into history.

Flags of our Fathers

by James Bradley

In this unforgettable chronicle of perhaps the most famous moment in American military history, James Bradley has captured the glory, the triumph, the heartbreak, and the legacy of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. Here is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America.

In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima—and into history. Through a hail of machine-gun and mortar fire that left the beaches strewn with comrades, they battled to the island’s highest peak. And after climbing through a landscape of hell itself, they raised a flag.

Now the son of one of the flagraisers has written a powerful account of six very different young men who came together in a moment that will live forever.

To his family, John Bradley never spoke of the photograph or the war. But after his death at age seventy, his family discovered closed boxes of letters and photos. In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley draws on those documents to retrace the lives of his father and the men of Easy Company. Following these men’s paths to Iwo Jima, James Bradley has written a classic story of the heroic battle for the Pacific’s most crucial island—an island riddled with Japanese tunnels and 22,000 fanatic defenders who would fight to the last man.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the story is what happened after the victory. The men in the photo—three were killed during the battle—were proclaimed heroes and flown home, to become reluctant symbols. For two of them, the adulation was shattering. Only James Bradley’s father truly survived, displaying no copy of the famous photograph in his home, telling his son only: “The real heroes of Iwo Jima were the guys who didn’t come back.”

Few books ever have captured the complexity and furor of war and its aftermath as well as Flags of Our Fathers. A penetrating, epic look at a generation at war, this is history told with keen insight, enormous honesty, and the passion of a son paying homage to his father. It is the story of the difference between truth and myth, the meaning of being a hero, and the essence of the human experience of war.

Band of Brothers

by Stephen E. Ambrose

Stephen E. Ambrose’s iconic New York Times bestseller about the ordinary men who became the World War II’s most extraordinary soldiers: Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, US Army.

They came together, citizen soldiers, in the summer of 1942, drawn to Airborne by the $50 monthly bonus and a desire to be better than the other guy. And at its peak—in Holland and the Ardennes—Easy Company was as good a rifle company as any in the world.

From the rigorous training in Georgia in 1942 to the disbanding in 1945, Stephen E. Ambrose tells the story of this remarkable company. In combat, the reward for a job well done is the next tough assignment, and as they advanced through Europe, the men of Easy kept getting the tough assignments.

They parachuted into France early D-Day morning and knocked out a battery of four 105 mm cannon looking down Utah Beach; they parachuted into Holland during the Arnhem campaign; they were the Battered Bastards of the Bastion of Bastogne, brought in to hold the line, although surrounded, in the Battle of the Bulge; and then they spearheaded the counteroffensive. Finally, they captured Hitler’s Bavarian outpost, his Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden.

They were rough-and-ready guys, battered by the Depression, mistrustful and suspicious. They drank too much French wine, looted too many German cameras and watches, and fought too often with other GIs. But in training and combat they learned selflessness and found the closest brotherhood they ever knew. They discovered that in war, men who loved life would give their lives for them.

This is the story of the men who fought, of the martinet they hated who trained them well, and of the captain they loved who led them. E Company was a company of men who went hungry, froze, and died for each other, a company that took 150 percent casualties, a company where the Purple Heart was not a medal—it was a badge of office.

 

About the author

Writer, proud military mom and possessed by two crazy cats and one put-upon dog. Writes under the names of Amanda S. Green, Sam Schall and Ellie Ferguson.

Comments

  1. Tin Can Sailors. A great, great read.

    Band of Brothers. I spoke to Buck Compton when he passed through Philly Airport. That was someone worthy of my respect and I consider myself lucky to have spoken with him.

    I have only seen the Band of Brothers series, so I headed over to Amazon and bought the book. Thank you for providing the extra motivation!

    1. Tin Can Sailors is one of my all-time favorites. I could easily envy you for having the chance to speak with Compton. Hope you enjoy the book. I’ll admit, the series is my standard go-to for TV on Memorial Day.

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